SAN DIEGO, Calif. – The Dixie State men’s basketball team got another crack at Hawaii Pacific University after losing their only match-up in the season. Up by 10 points with 14 minutes to go, the Red Storm would only score 14 more against HPU’s defense, going down to the Sea Warriors for the second time, 71-65.
DSU led 36-29 at the half and the teams would play even coming out of the break, with Dixie’s lead inching forward to 10 points on Mason Sawyer’s free throw at the 14:22 mark. Then the Red Storm hit a dry spell with no points from the field over the next six-plus minutes until Robbins hit a layup with 7:37 left. That dunk still had the Red Storm up six points 57-51.
But a 10-3 HPU run over the next three minutes gave the Sea Warriors their first lead since the opening minutes. Long’s 3-pointer put HPU up 61-60 with 4:46 to go. The Red Storm would never regain the lead.
After a Thompson free throw, DSU would have three empty possessions in a row as the Sea Warriors built a 67-61 lead. Robbins would have a follow-up dunk on a missed Payne layup at the 1:28 mark to make it 67-63. Forced to foul one of the top free throw shooting teams in the conference, Dixie State was unable to pull out the comeback. Robbins would score two more buckets in the paint off missed 3-point shots, but HPU was able to match them with free throws at the other end.
Early in the game, HPU jumped out to a 9-6 advantage. The Storm responded with an 11-0 run behind four free throws from Zach Robbins and a 3-pointer by Louis Garrett and led 17-9 with 11:40 to play in the first half.
HPU’s leading scorer, Justin Long, then scored the next seven points for the Sea Warriors and pulled HPU to within three, 19-16, at the 9:26 mark. The momentum shifted at that point with a 10-6 Red Storm run, fueled by reserve forward Curtis Papenfuss, who scored eight first-half points. With 6:06 to play Dixie led 29-22.
The teams would match each other the remainder of the half and when the halftime horn sounded, Dixie’s lead remained at seven, 36-29.
The big men for the Sea Warriors got into early foul trouble as Robbins and Jordan Rex drew third fouls from Jordan Garrett and Leif Rodney, sending them to the bench early. Together Robbins and Rex hit 10 of 14 from the line in the first half on the resultant free throws.
From the field, both teams played well defensively as neither team shot better than 37 percent. HPU held a 29-23 advantage on scoring from the field, but the Red Storm outscored the Sea Warriors 13-0 from the line.
HPU controlled the pace to its liking, holding the Red Storm to zero fast-break points in the first half. Dixie held the rebounding edge 28-20 and also a 10-7 advantage on second chance points.
Long kept HPU in the game with 12 first half points while Robbins led the Red Storm with nine points and five rebounds.
Dixie had its worst offensive performance of the year, hitting only 29 percent of its shots and only 21 percent from distance. Robbins led the Red Storm with 21 points and 12 rebounds. The only other Dixie player in double-figures was Papenfuss with 10. DSU’s 65 points was its second-lowest total of the season.
For the Sea Warriors, Long led with 21 points. Farman added 19 points and 17 rebounds. HPU dominated with points in the pain 40-26. They also reversed Dixie’s advantage on the boards in the second half, 33-22.
The loss drops Dixie State to 21-6. The Red Storm will have to wait till Sunday to see if they receive an at-large bid in the NCAA Division II tournament. Dixie was listed in the top eight in the West Region at the end of the season, but the at-large bids also depend on how many season conference champions lose their conference tournaments and automatic bids.
HPU advances to face Dominican in the PacWest semifinals Friday at 1 p.m.
Stats: HPU 71, DSU 65
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